County commissioners agreed to raise remodeling permit fees to help bring more revenue to the building department and possibly keep it solvent.
The new fees would be phased in over two years starting June 1 and bring in an estimated $210,000 when fully implemented.
The fees will not be charged on ongoing contracts signed prior to the June 1 implementation date.
“Nobody wants to raise fees but we’ve beat this sucker to death,” Commissioner Jeff Stabins said at Tuesday’s meeting.
The board also directed Business Development Director Mike McHugh to continue to explore streamlining efforts at the building department.
Under the new schedule, fees will rise $30 for group one and two permits and $50 for group three and four permits. Each group has different remodeling permit parameters.
For example, group one fees will increase from $50 to $80 on permits for such things as fireplaces, above-ground pools, water heaters and pool heating systems.
Group two permits will rise from $100 to $130 for decks, docks, carports, screen enclosures, boat lifts, seawalls, residential re-roof projects and more.
Group three fees will increase from $150 to $200 for in-ground pools, mobile home additions and garages.
Group four permits will increase from $300 to $350 and apply to mobile home setup, park model setup and single-family home placement.
The majority of building permit fees issued by Hernando County are from group one. For 2009, that represented 4,072 permits.
McHugh told commissioners that without a fee increase, the building department would likely be out of money by November or December and there will be a “degradation of service.”
It could also lead to more layoffs in an already depleted department, McHugh said.
McHugh said reserves in the budget department are at “critically low levels” and the housing market shows no signs of improving.
McHugh said the building department has scaled back from almost 100 people to the current 21 full-time equivalent employees who are working 35-hour workweeks.
McHugh said the department issues about 800 home improvement permits per month.
The building department is an “enterprise fund,” which means it operates on income generated from fees.
Dudley Hampton Jr., immediate past president of the Hernando Builders Association, said the building department protects consumers by doing inspections and making sure all home improvement projects are code-compliant.
Having a third-party, private company do inspections could jeopardize accountability and lead to subpar work, he said.
For a complete list of the building department’s permit fees and current rates, visit http://www.co.hernando.fl.us/bldg/2002-310fees.htm
Reporter Michael D. Bates can be reached at 352-544-5290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.